TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will consider a proposal by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to cancel the September 17 elections and form a new government, his Likud party announced Tuesday.
Edelstein said on Twitter that he had found a legal mechanism to cancel “the most unnecessary elections in Israel’s history.”
“It is our duty to allow the 21st Knesset to keep working,” he tweeted.
According to Channel 12, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had said earlier that calling off the elections wasn’t legally possible.
Edelstein’s plan would reconvene the Knesset Presidium to cancel the current election period so that new laws can once again be passed. The Knesset would then vote on a bill to cancel the upcoming elections. The vote would require support from at least 80 MKs — which means opposition figures would need to be on board as well.
According to the prime minister’s spokesman Yonatan Urich, Netanyahu “treats Edelstein with great respect and will consider his proposal in the coming days.”
In a statement, Likud’s rival Blue and White party panned the move as “more spin” invented by a prime minister “to make the public forget that he failed to form a government” and “dragging his own country to an unnecessary election.”
The party’s chairman MK Benny Gantz said: “The reports tonight make it clear — Netanyahu is afraid of public justice, and Netanyahu is lying — there are no negotiations with Blue and White.”
“Netanyahu understands that he is about to lose the elections and is now looking for magic solutions.”
Likud is said to be seeking a unity government with a rotation of the premiership with the Blue and White party, but the latter has said that it would not form a government with Netanyahu at the helm — even part time.
“It is not a problem to form a unity government,” Blue and White co-chairman Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter.
“One person, and one alone, should step aside. To go and take care of his indictments,” he added in reference to Netanyahu.
Lapid went on to suggest that Likud appoint Edelstein, Gideon Saar or Yisrael Katz as party head. “We will have a unity government of at least 75 MKs, led by the Blue and White party. Stable. Proper. Functional.”
Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman, the man who started the ball rolling on last month’s coalition crisis, repeated his call for a unity government with Blue and White and claimed that Netanyahu’s motives for cancelling the elections had nothing to do with “benefiting the State of Israel, but rather showed his fear of losing power.”
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, head of Kulanu, said he welcomed the move to cancel.
“The upcoming elections are unnecessary, expensive, and harmful to the economy,” tweeted Kahlon.
Even former education minister Naftali Bennett, who was fired from his post after his New Right party failed to clear the electoral threshold in April, said he backed the move.
“So we’re clear: On a personal level, the repeat elections fell from the sky like a winning lottery ticket, but they are bad, bad for the State of Israel,” tweeted Bennett.
He also called on Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz to form a unity government.
“Sit all night, agree on a normal government, and cancel these stupid elections,” added Bennett.
Labor’s Itzik Shmuli said, “Canceling the election is not legally possible and not ethically kosher and will therefore not pass.”
He added that Labor would “oppose any such action, whose only goal is Netanyahu’s personal survival.”
Meretz head Tamar Zandberg slammed Netanyahu for using the country as a “toy” for his own political gain.
“It’s amazing to see how Netanyahu uses Israel as his personal toy. A month ago he moved heaven and earth to move up the elections, and now that he sees the public has tired of these games, he’s doing a U-turn.”
She called on others in the center-left camp to deny the “corrupt” Netanyahu a “lifeline.”